Gophers golfer Angus Flanagan won this month’s Minnesota State Open with his caddie’s driver and a course-record, final-round 64 that cinched a sponsor’s exemption into the PGA Tour’s 3M Open this week at TPC Twin Cities.
It was a victory — “my first tournament back from everything that’s gone in the world” with the coronavirus pandemic — that reminded him there’s more than one way to play this game.
He played the first two days with 2019 MGA State Amateur champion Clay Kucera and 17-time Minnesota Player of the Year Don Berry, the Edinburgh USA pro who at age 58 played in his 39th consecutive State Open.
Flanagan is 21.
“It definitely shows you golf can be played two different ways,” Flanagan said. “I was out there hitting my driver 330 and he’s hitting 250, 260. He’s hitting hybrids into greens and I’m hitting my wedges. It kind of put me in place, I’m not going to lie.”
His first-round 68 was two shots better than Berry’s 70, his second-round 69 one better until Flanagan pulled away from both Berry and the field with a two-shot victory that picked up where he left off when the pandemic hit in March.
“I’m playing some of the best golf of my life, if not the best golf of my life,” he said. “I’m in a place I haven’t felt with my game for a while, that I can almost do anything with a golf ball.”
An Englishman from London’s southwestern suburbs, Flanagan was the 2019 Big Ten championship co-medalist and is No. 69 on the World Amateur Golf Rankings. He’s just 5-8 but plays a game with which Berry is unfamiliar.
“He’s long, even by these kids’ standards,” said Berry, who’s 16 years older than Flanagan and Kucera combined. “He hits it real high, real long, but very straight, not crooked like some of the kids. He putted really well, too.”
That’s why 3M Open Executive Director Hollis Cavner personally extended an exemption on the putting green at the Royal Golf Club in Lake Elmo after Flanagan’s State Open victory. Cavner also has invited Tom Lehman and Erik van Rooyen from other Gophers eras.
Flanagan calls it a reward for all the practice balls he hit, all the rounds he played with Gophers teammate Thomas Longbella these past five months.
“Just hours on the range grinding,” Flanagan said.
Longbella caddied for him at the State Open and fetched from his car his own driver with which Flanagan played after his driver face broke on the third hole.
Flanagan hasn’t returned to London to see his parents since Christmas. To do so would require him to quarantine two weeks going and two weeks coming back. Instead, he considers himself adopted by Longbella’s family during this time.
“I’m almost called Angus Longbella,” Flanagan said.
He likely won’t go home until this Christmas, after he plays a summer schedule that includes the 3M Open, Western Amateur, U.S. Amateur and presumably his senior fall season for a Gophers team that has played many practice rounds at TPC Twin Cities.
He’s also set to play in the prestigious Arnold Palmer Cup in December at the namesake’s Bay Hill Club in Florida. The Ryder Cup-style collegiate event originally scheduled at Lahinch in Ireland this month was postponed.
“He’s fun to watch, he’s good, he’ll have a nice career,” asked Berry, who played four PGA Championships and the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. “Of all the 21-year-olds, how many make the tour and play 20 years? Probably five or six. He certainly has the potential.
“He’s got the chance to play pro golf for a long time.”